They have also warned the DfE not to lose its focus on children’s policy in the light of departmental time being taken up with initiatives such as academies.
The Education Select Committee has published a report into the governance and leadership of the DfE which says that the “majority of civil servants there have concerns about its leadership and change management”.
The report quotes figures from the Civil Service People Survey 2011 which found that only 32 per cent feel that change is managed well at the DfE and just 21 per cent believe that changes in the department are usually for the better.
Committee chairman, Graham Stuart, said: “We have … identified a number of refinements that could ensure better governance and leadership in ways that would improve both delivery and management of policy.
“Critically, that will need to involve some fairly urgent effort to improve staff morale, which survey data suggests has dropped to a point where only half the staff believe the department to be well run.”
However, in his evidence to the committee, incoming permanent secretary Chris Wormald said he had “not found a low-morale organisation”. However, he admitted that the survey results may have been affected by “recruitment freezes, pay freezes and staff reductions”.
Elsewhere, the MPs were also concerned that the changes in structure at the DfE meant that focus was shifting away from children’s policy and towards schools.
The report states: “Our own visit to the department made clear the significantly different staffing levels between, for example, academies development and family policy. Non-schools areas of the department’s remit are also revealed to benefit from less senior staff input than their schools counterparts and, following the recent ministerial reshuffle, they also have less ministerial input as well.”
Mr Stuart added: “This inquiry has shone an important spotlight on how policy is implemented and managed.
“It has highlighted a need to ensure that children’s policy retains sufficient status alongside schools and colleges, which appear to occupy the majority of ministerial and officials’ time.“
The full report is online at www.parliament.uk/education-committee/